Pfizer Birth Control Recall Highlights Defective Drug Issues

February 9, 2012

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Giant drug maker Pfizer has come under pressure of late because it has recalled birth control pill packets it believes were incorrectly packaged, which caused women to take a lower dose than needed to prevent pregnancy, The New York Times reports.

Product liability attorneys hear examples of products coming out of the manufacturing plant defective all the time, but sadly the news doesn't spread until there's a problem. Companies often under-test their products because they want to get them on the shelves as quickly as possible.

Consumer protection laws are designed to help the public when they suffer as a result of a defective drug or defective product. Drugs are important to curing illnesses and fending off diseases. But they can also have major side effects.

While government agencies are designed to screen for these problems, the oversight is weak -- typically the Food and Drug Administration relies upon the studies conducted by the company seeking to have a drug approved. But that is still no excuse. The companies themselves are to have stringent testing protocols to make sure the products they are selling are free from serious risk. Instead, they frequently conduct mandatory testing in third-world countries, far from the prying eyes of regulators.

In this situation, Pfizer, a leading pharmaceutical company, recalled about 1 million packets of birth control pills. The company believes as few as 30 may have actually been affected. While that's a low percentage, that is still 30 people, potentially, who were using birth control and may now be pregnant.

The 21-pill "blister" packs typically contain 21 hormone-containing pills and seven inactive pills for women to be protected from an unwanted pregnancy. In some packages, the inactive pills may have been put in the wrong spots, meaning women could have taken inactive pills on days when they should have been taking active pills. This could lead to an unplanned pregnancy.

The Times reports that it asked Pfizer if it was going to pay for health care costs related to a pregnancy or abortion and other issues, but the company hasn't directly answered the question. The company said in a written statement that women should use a non-hormonal contraception immediately.

Consumer protection laws may very well be useful to people who are affected by this issue. Women take birth control specifically because they are not ready or willing to have a child. In some cases, they have a serious medical condition that could impact the health and welfare of mother or child.

Obviously, users understand that the drug may not completely stop pregnancy, but it becomes a bigger problem if it is a manufacturing issue that leads to the defect. Regardless of the type of drug, consumer protection laws can help.

Even if the drug is designed to treat a certain ailment or problem, the effects - unintended or otherwise - of the drug can cause bigger problems than the initial symptoms. These are also issues that must be addressed by an experienced consumer protection lawyer. These drug companies make billions of dollars, but that's no excuse for putting people at risk. Despite testing, sometimes the process is rushed and that creates problems for the consumer that can lead to serious or fatal injury.

The Ferraro Law Firm represents people injured by recalled or defective products throughout the country. Call 1-800-275-3332 for a free and confidential consultation. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

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Additional Resources:

Pfizer and Its Recall of Birth Control Pills, by Ann Carrns, The New York Times